MCA Stage presents God Bless Baseball, a new contemporary theater work by the playwright-director Toshiki Okada, with an international cast of Japanese and Korean actors. With Okada’s signature odd and unmistakable logic, God Bless Baseball takes baseball as its central metaphor—the most American of games, which is hugely popular in Japan and Korea—and gives a sense for how Asians assimilate and change American exports such as sports, pop culture, and the military. God Bless Baseball is commissioned in part by the MCA and takes places January 28 through 30 in the MCA’s Edlis Neeson Theater.
This project re-examines the history of Japan and Korea through the lens of baseball, the quintessential American sport. Baseball came to Japan in 1872 and to Korea in 1904. Since then, the sport has become completely integrated into the culture and society of these two nations, as well as the lives of the people. This piece also explores the influence and differences between America and modern Asian culture. Visual design by multimedia artist Tadasu Takamine provides a spare yet dramatic setting. The play is performed in Japanese and Korean with English subtitles.
Toshiki Okada is known as a foremost playwright and director in Japanese theater today. His works are intrinsically Japanese, emerging from a contemporary setting with particular idiosyncrasies, anxieties, and forms of expression. He founded his company, chelfitsch, in 1997 naming it after a deliberate mispronunciation of the English word selfish. chelfitsch’s plays are distinctive in the ways they bring the intimacy of individual concerns into conversation with overshadowing issues, like the economic crisis and the cultural aftershocks of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Winner of the Kishida Kunio Drama Award, Japan’s most prestigious honor for playwrights, Okada was first introduced to Chicago audiences by the MCA in 2009 with his award-winning play Five Days in March.
Tadasu Takamine is collaborating with Okada to create the visual design for God Bless Baseball. He is known for being a provocative and irreverent video and installation artist working in Japan. Takamine’s performance and moving-image works engage focus on sexuality, humanity, and the body. He has exhibited extensively throughout Asia, North America, and Europe, as well as Australia, Latin America, and South Africa.